Now for a change of pace...

I'm not a movie critic, like I'm not a connoisseur of anything (well, sushi maybe...), but I viewed a DVD yesterday that I really liked, and made me think about even now.

It's called "The Ruins." It doesn't have a load of A-list stars. In fact, it doesn't have *any* A-listers, and that's a good thing for this film, because one really has to identify with the principals in order for it to work. Like with "Blair Witch Project," it wouldn't have worked if the audience thinks 'oh, it's Brad Pitt playing [whatever part].'

The one star it DOES have is Ben Stiller, as executive producer. Nice work, Ben, because on the commentary section, many alternate choices were considered for important scenes, and in each one the right choice was made.

The plot? A group of young adults on vacation decide on the spur of the moment to assist a new acquaintence in finding his brother, who has gone in search of some ruins but has not returned. That's all you need to know, and don't let it make you think you've seen/heard the story before. You haven't.

CGI? Not so much. And clearly only where there was no other choice. I'm not a fan of kablooie for kablooie's sake. Nor do I like special effects which create situations or results which otherwise would be law-of-physics impossible. Let the special effects crews [SEC] create, not the computers. And in "The Ruins" the SEC comes thru with a bang (which is really the only bang in the flick).

If you liked Hitchcock's "The Birds," you will like this. For reasons I won't go into now because it will spoil a lot of the essence of it, I won't explain why I feel that way. If you are reasonably perceptive, you will understand why I say that after you've seen it.

The acting is good, and low-key for a thriller. There's good reason for hysterics from the principals, but the director chose to make the group level-headed and intelligent. What flip-outs there were, were logical and brief.

There is much to get nit-picky about - why did they [whatever], and why is this [whatever], and 'that wouldn't have happened.' Well, to that kind of movie-goer I say, 'just stop that!' "2001, a Space Odyssey" wouldn't be the classic it is if it got pecked to death by cinema-ducks. Movies depend on willing suspension of disbelief. There's not that much to suspend in this film, so if thrillers are your thing, just sit back and enjoy it. Or not. Your taste, your choice, but give it a try, since there's always the off-button if you don't.


Fiscally 'real' life...

This may lose me some readers, but I have a suggestion to help turn the economy around. Decriminalize pot. Before you run screaming or start yelling at me, there are things to consider, cost-wise. (And no, I don't use it, although I have...at night before I went to sleep. Very relaxing, and the dreams were delightful. Now - not in the midwest I won't...it's not treated nearly as casually as it is in California.) Anyway, that said:

For those with a head for studies, here is a very on-point website: http://www.drugpolicy.org/library/thies2.cfm
For those who like their information pre-chewed: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/?c=columns&id=255&inc=article&x=drug-roar-20080429_c=columns&id=255&inc=article&x=drug-roar-20080429

For a purely fiscal point of view, consider these direct and indirect costs (in no particular order):

- relieve law enforcement of pursuit of small sales (up to, say, 2 oz) for personal use and get them back to big-time drug- and crime-fighting.
- get personal use out of the courtroom and free up huge time/cost factor, unclogging court calendars for more important issues. If you've never considered the cost of one prosecution of a personal-use bust, start with the cost of the court clerk, thru wages of prosecutor, court stenographer (or whatever they're called these days), Judge, bailiff...see where I'm going with this?...
- upon conviction, the cost of jail for the convicted person. If probation, you have to factor in the wages of the probation officer.
- absolutely the worst possibility... it might be the third offense (and remember, an ounce of pot can be a felony in some states) and that might be -- and in some cases IS -- a mandatory 25-life sentence. Can you picture anyone doing 25 years for being caught with a grams-sized bit of grass? Well, it's happening. And if you thought the cost of trying a personal-use case is excessive, do a little research on the costs of housing/feeding one inmate in general population for one year, then multiply that by 25. Check this site for state-by-state acceptance (or not) of use/cultivation... it will make you dizzy.
- Also, there is the cost of international pursuit of growers and their 'middle-men.' Free up THOSE officials/officers to pursue the cocaine/heroine/etc hard drug conglomerates. On the "positives" side, regulate and tax it like we do cigarettes, which are WAY more dangerous to one's health. Make driving while high the same as DUI (and take the impaired driver's license away while usage is under determination). Make adding ingredients to the mix to make it addictive a MAJOR felony with mandatory prison time (I personally think this should be in place for cigarette companies...). Regulate it thru the FDA.

Not only would this one simple decriminalization decrease the costs to the
cities/counties/state/feds, it would increase revenues of those same entities. It would allow those with diseases for which pot is indicated to use it without fear and/or guilt. It might even redirect potential alcoholics to a 'mood altering substance' which is far less likely to cause health/social problems.

And to the folks that have fallen for the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug...use your head. If marijuana is legal, you've removed the 'gate.' If it is no longer on the drug dealers' list of substances, you've eliminated the source of the enticement to go on to cocaine, heroin, and crack. How many drug dealers sell Burgundy? Vodka? Pina Coladas? If there's no profit, there's no point for the illicit drug dealers to sell it. Let the profit go to the various governments and watch their budgets change for the better.

Out of My Mind 2

- There's a current commercial showing a cute cupid firing his arrows into a unresponsive fella's chest. That kid is just adorable, which I'm sure gets him far in his schoolyard. Beyond that, I'm willing to bet my social security check that he's the spittin' image of Simon Baker at that age. And if you don't know who THAT is, shame on you!

- No matter one's life situation, there is not much more wonderful than a lovely thoughtful gift from a friend, right out of the blue. I was the lucky recipient (Tuesday, although I'm not sure when the carrier just plopped it in my carport) of the charming Numi gift set to the right. No reason (maybe Valentine's day), just a lovely gift I would never buy for myself, although it has been on my 'when I win the lottery' list for awhile. (along with the SmartCar and two years at The Golden Doors...) Thank you, and a big hug, Susan!

- That Dunkin' Donuts commercial is self-defeating. The one with all the folks yelling from their roofs. Especially the gal who is on her sixth cup. No WONDER she's on the roof. After six cups, I would be, too.


Say WHAT??

What am I missing? The one thing about this bailout that perplexes me is why NO Republican politician is in favor of limiting the pay of CEOs of corporations that accept bailout money. Doesn't 'bailout funds acceptance' kinda indicate the CEO isn't doing such a great job, on the face of it?

Recently Wells Fargo decided to forego its big bash for 'top producers/employees' slated to be enjoyed in Las Vegas. When asked about it, WF's reply was that the cost of this incentive trip was to be paid from corporate profits, not the bailout money it received. However... WF's last report showed loss rather than profit. I want to learn how to do that financial magic. Perhaps WF should be WTF instead...


Sinking my teeth into issues again...

It's so good to be back! So good, in fact, that I hate to start my return by grumbling about something. It is, however, something I feel strongly about.

For years there have been dental programs for kids. And it's an excellent, sensible thing to do. But there seems to be nothing nationally for seniors. When you really think about it, seniors with dental diseases are just as big an eventual drain on our health care system as are children with bad teeth.

With virtually all of the kid's dental programs, fillings are the mainstay of dental health. Makes sense, right? Good oral hygiene is essential for the intake of good nutrition. (Try eating an apple while enjoying a toothache...)

Consider, then, the 65+ year old senior who lives solely on Social Security, who gets a cavity. No one believes dental caries cure themselves, right? But neither Medicare nor Medicaid will cover fillings. If the cavity gets big enough, or deep enough, to cause a toothache, only then will the 'entitlement' for the aged kick into gear. The solution? Pull the tooth. Likewise, if a cusp or two on the tooth is broken, deny help until the tooth disintegrates enough to cause physical pain, then --- you guessed it --- pull it. Since regular dentists seldom do extractions anymore (although rebuilding the tooth is routine for them) the mandated extraction procedures are done by an orthodontist, who then bills Medicare/Medicaid for much more than the simple filling would cost.

Given the fact that people do lose teeth 'naturally' in the course of their lives, what happens when the absence of several teeth on one side, or side-by-side occurs? Chew on the other side. Ah...but what if the other side is in a similar condition because of all of this pull-don't-fill cost-ineffectiveness? Now it's time for sometimes thousands of dollars worth of major oral surgery all leading to dentures. Is this dumb, or WHAT?

A side effect of this astronomical stupidity is the reluctance of a lot of seniors to complain about ill-fitting Medicare/Medicaid dentures (since they see it as charity to begin with). They begin to deny themselves vitamin/nutrient rich foods and instead opt for soft foods which, while easier to chew/gum enough to swallow, don't provide the essential nutrients to maintain what would otherwise be a reasonably healthy body. Off to the doctor for various problems caused by less than optimal body health. This is striking among the 60+ demographic... a fat senior is very likely to be obese not because of laying about munching bonbons, but because spaghetti, macaroni, etc., is much cheaper and easier to eat than lean meats and fruits/vegetables. For them, low-calorie equals high expense, and even with foodstamps, it is not sustainable on a less-than-$1000 per month budget. (Especially in the midwest-to-east, where winter heating can easily take 1/4 of that amount.) Bad diet (frequently high in fat) equals heart disease, type 2 diabetes... many other ills the treatment for which will come out of YOUR tax dollars. Type 2 diabetes, linked primarily to diet, costs an enormous amount of Medicare/Medicaid dollars just in supplies - testing strips, needles - as well as daily insulin.

There needs to be more attention paid to senior dental health, and our legislators need to be made aware of just how the lack of it weighs down our tax dollars.